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Pyramid Scheme MMM Kenya Collapses as Founder Mavrodi Dies

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MMM Kenya

MMM Kenya, a local affiliate of MMM Global, is in a limbo after the death of its founder Sergey Mavrodi. Mavrodi, who had been operating the dubious money doubling scheme online, reportedly passed away after a heart attack last Sunday, leaving thousands of his victims with worthless “mavros” and hundreds of millions of shillings lost.

Although the MMM pyramid scheme had already crumbled in countries such as Nigeria and South Africa, MMM Kenya continued its operations enticing thousands of people to pay money to strangers they interacted with online.

The Man: Sergey Mavrodi

Mavrodi was a renowned Russian fraudster who was found guilty in 2007 of swindling money from 10,000 Russian investors who lost more than $4 million and was sentenced to 4.5 years in prison. After his release in 2011, the MMM Ponzi scheme resurfaced only that now Mavrodi’s target market became the African continent. In 2015, MMM South Africa was established, promising participants a 30 percent return on their investment and bitcoin became the payment option of choice for the scheme.

The Ponzi scheme would later in 2016 spread to other African countries such as Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria and Zimbabwe.

Media reports say that the 62-year old died of a heart attack after a short complaint of chest pain and weakness. Moskovsky Komsomolets, a Moscow newspaper reported that “Mavrodi was hospitalised in the 67th City Hospital. He could not be saved – he died this morning.”

According to a statement on their website, MMM Kenya administrators said “they have put the Internet-based infrastructure on “pause” mode, leaving all those in possession of “mavros” – the pseudo-currency sold by Mavrodi – unable to do anything with it. As such, those with money in the pyramid scheme will be unable to withdraw anything. The statement went on to say: “In the near future, the administration will take a decision concerning MMM’s future and report on it officially.”

MMM Kenya Membership

The common question that was asked of any new recruit interested in the pyramid scheme was: “How much money do you need to be absolutely happy?” MMM Kenya has recruiting agents who would then entice the new members into meetings and ask them to sign up so as to get financial assistance from other new members. The new recruits would then be asked to donate money to the “needy” – the older members – and, in turn, they would earn points in MMM’s (fictitious) digital currency. In the scheme, the more a person gave or the more an old member convinced new members to join, the more points – known as mavros – they earned which they could end up withdrawing as money.

According to the Daily Nation, those investing in the Ponzi scheme were also promised a 30 percent return on their investment and higher returns if they helped members within the scheme that needed financial aid. And the only way that MMM Kenya would survive is if more members signed up. If there is an imbalance between the number of new recruits and those seeking financial aid, the scheme would collapse. This was the case in Nigeria when the number of those seeking help surpassed that of those donating.

CBK Warning

The indefinite “pause” of the MMM Kenya operations comes two months after Patrick Njoroge, the Central Bank of Kenya Governor issued a warning to those investing in digital currencies like bitcoin and Mavrodi’s Mavros that it was a bubble and they should be ready to lose all their money.

The CBK notwithstanding, the operations of MMM in Kenya continued with thousands falling victim to the scheme with a promise of getting high returns on their investment. As Kenyans who have invested in the pyramid scheme await for a way forward from the company, it is only a matter of time before they can start counting their losses.

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Botswana Receives its First Bitcoin ATM

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Botswana Bitcoin ATM

A startup in Botswana recently launched the country’s first bitcoin ATM in a shopping mall in the country’s capital Gaborone.

Botswana’s First Bitcoin ATM

Botswana Bitcoin ATMAccording to a report by Business Times, the new bitcoin teller machine, which is Africa’s tenth bitcoin ATM, is located in Gaborone’s city centre in a large shopping mall.

The company hopes that its bitcoin ATM will gradually increase the use of cryptocurrency in the city. Also, given the many negative stories surrounding cryptocurrencies, transactions without human interactions could be an attractive option to potential customers.

“We have been working tirelessly to make it easier for Batswana [people of Botswana] to buy cryptocurrencies and now we are bringing simplicity, convenience, and trust to the cryptocurrency purchasing experience,” said Express Minds’ Director Brose Watlala.

Mr. Watlala further states that the machine has a maximum daily transaction limit of around $5,000 and is the fastest, most convenient way to currently buy bitcoin in Botswana. Since there are no local cryptocurrency exchanges in the country, the local bitcoin community will likely benefit from the new bitcoin ATM.

The Future of Bitcoin ATMs

Botswana‘s government has paid negligible attention to digital currencies with its central bank not having made any official comments on cryptoassets or the blockchain. Currently, there are no clear rules and regulations around the legality of bitcoin and other crypoassets in the African nation. That means that the new bitcoin ATM may or may not last a long time should the country’s regulatory position towards bitcoin change.

As for now though, Express Minds use their newly launched bitcoin ATM to teach more people about bitcoin and the crypto world, which could go a long way in helping the country’s progress in crypto adoption.

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Kenya’s Regulatory Sandbox Will Not Accommodate Cryptocurrency Firms Says CMA

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Regulatory Sandbox in Kenya

Kenya’s financial regulator, the Capital Markets Authority (CMA), announced that the new regulatory sandbox will not accommodate blockchain firms dealing in cryptocurrencies.

The Regulatory Sandbox in Kenya

“[…] Blockchain firms will be considered so long as they are not dealing with cryptocurrencies since the CMA’s mandate does not extend to currency. The CMA regulatory sandbox can only serve financial innovations that are directly within the regulatory perimeter of the CMA.” said the Capital Markets Authority’s chief executive Paul Muthaura, according to a report by BusinessDailyAfrica.

CMA

The new regulatory sandbox aims to offer a controlled environment for fintech firms to innovate and create financial products that protect the interests of consumers.

The regulatory sandbox has so far received interest from 70 firms that want to join. Most of these firms are in the payments sector while others are crowdfunding platforms in the real estate and health sectors. In addition, some of these firms are from outside Kenya.

The CMA recently held a validation exercise with the 70 firms of the opinions received from the public regarding the new laws guiding the sandbox. Before this, the regulator had requested for public feedback regarding the sandbox’s regulations.

In April, the Authority will issue the final guidance notice to anchor the regulations into law before officially launching the sandbox in May.

An Anti-Crypto Regulatory Space

In the past, the Capital Markets Authority and the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) have warned Kenyans to avoid participating in initial coin offerings (ICOs) and trading in cryptocurrencies respectively. These warnings were issued because investing in ICOs and cryptocurrencies poses a high risk to consumers.

“There are risks associated with cryptocurrency particularly on consumer protection, fraud, hacking and loss of data and they are prone to be used as pyramid schemes,” the CBK governor, Dr. Patrick Njoroge asserted in 2018

In one of its 2018 soundness reports, the CMA recommended that a special body be created to oversee cryptocurrencies and ICOs. The report stated: “There is a need for regulators to devise a common approach towards handling issues revolving around cryptocurrencies and ICOs. A joint workgroup by financial sector regulators could be put in place to tackle issues around cryptocurrencies and ICOs.”

In light of the upcoming regulatory sandbox, Kenyans could benefit from the platform since the market is currently flooded with fintech solutions, especially those in the mobile lending sector, which are high-risk.

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Mauritius to Receive World’s First Digital Asset Custody Regulatory Framework

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Digital Asset Custody Regulatory Framework

Mauritius is set to receive the first digital asset custody regulatory framework in the world, according to an announcement by the country’s Financial Services Commission (FSC). The framework will be effective from March 1, 2019.

The Digital Asset Custody Regulatory Framework

On September 17, 2018, digital assets were recognised as an asset class for Sophisticated and Expert Investors by the Financial Services Commission, Mauritius (FSC). This was followed by the FSC issuing a consultation paper with the intention of getting public and stakeholder feedback on the proposed Custodian Services (Digital Asset) License regulation, as BitcoinAfrica.io reported in November 2018. The license enables its holder to offer custody services for digital assets.

“In revolutionising the global FinTech ecosystem through this regulatory framework for the custody of Digital Assets, my Government reiterates its commitment to accelerating the country’s move to an age of digitally-enabled economic growth. As an African country, we look forward to fostering further innovation and bringing more prosperity to the region,” said Pravind Kumar Jugnauth, Prime Minister of the Republic of Mauritius.

The regulatory framework will make Mauritius the first jurisdiction to create a “regulated landscape for the custody of digital assets. Holders of the Custodian Services (Digital Asset) License will equally have to comply with the applicable framework for AML/CFT, in line with international best practices,” the announcement read.

Support for the Regulatory Framework

Digital Asset Custody Regulatory FrameworkAccording to the FSC, the regulatory framework was created after consultations with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on the regulation and governance of digital financial assets.

The Chief Executive of the FSC, Harvesh Seegolam, asserted: “The FSC is committed to implementing enabling frameworks which facilitate the development of the Mauritius IFC. We continue to collaborate with our international counterparts and stakeholders in introducing the appropriate regulatory mechanisms.”

The Bank of Mauritius is also in support of the regulatory framework. The bank’s governor, Yandraduth Googoolye, said: “The Bank of Mauritius is supportive of innovation in the financial services sector. Banks, depending on their respective risk appetite, are encouraged to develop business relationships with players in the Digital Assets segment.”

In light of this announcement, the custody services license regulation could create a thriving cryptoasset industry in Mauritius, which could help position the country as the go-to digital asset investment hub on the continent.

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